Where am I from? Naïka Richard
First I would like to say that I am really grateful to be featured on an article that touches a subject so close to my heart, because the infamous “Where are you from?” question has never been a simple one for me to answer. There are times when I’ll even dread this question because I seriously never know where to begin.
So buckle up, here it goes.
According to my official legal documents, I am French and American. I’ve spoken both French and English fluently my whole life, since most of my schooling has been in French, while my mom spoke English with me at home from a very young age. My father’s family is French, yet he and my grandmother were both born and raised on the island of Madagascar, where my grandparents still reside today. My mother is from Haiti, her family settled in Port-au-Prince two centuries ago after migrating there from Lebanon and Palestine. As a result, I’ve also been fluent in creole ever since I was a child.
When my mother and father met in Haiti, this would be the first of their many adventures together. My dad had just started his job at a French development bank, which meant he would be moving to a different country every four years. When my mother was pregnant with me, my parents were living on the island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. My mom flew to Miami to give birth at Baptist Hospital, the same hospital where her mother had delivered her. After a brutal labor, my parents flew back with me to Guadeloupe where we lived for another two years.
My life since then has consisted of flying and settling into a new home, making new friends, falling in love with a new place, learning and growing through a new culture, and then packing up to do it all over again.
Our second home was remotely located in the South Pacific, on the beautiful archipelago of Vanuatu.
Although I left that part of the world when I was six years old, I still vividly remember my house, my school, my friends, the culture that shaped me during that time, the special connection with the ocean and it’s astounding beauty. My family and I were fortunate enough to discover all of the various and vibrant cultures that the South Pacific holds, from the islands of Fiji, to French Polynesia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea… Back then I was even perfectly fluent in Bislama, which is one of the official languages in Vanuatu.
Our next adventure brought us to Nairobi in Kenya, where the African continent forever stole my heart.
It is hard for me to even find the words to describe the beauty of a continent so culturally rich and diverse.
I loved living in Kenya, and spent four truly magical years there.
After this, my family packed up once again, and this was my first introduction to a Western lifestyle. We moved to Paris when I was around 11 years old, where we stayed for 3 years. Living in Paris at this age was a very fun time.
When I was 13 years old, I was thrilled to find out we were moving back to Africa, this time in Johannesburg. We lived in South Africa for 3 years, until my father changed his occupation, and my parents decided it was time to settle down and build a new life for ourselves in the United States.
To my own surprise, this was by far the most difficult move I had yet to experience. Despite my familiarity with Miami, the cultural shock I experienced moving to the US was beyond my expectations. The funny thing is, I wouldn’t even call Miami a very “American” city considering the fact that the culture is predominantly Latin-American, and if you don’t speak Spanish there you’ll have a hard time getting around.
I finished my last two years of high school in the US, where I had to make a switch from the French educational system to the American one (another big culture shock for me).
So, when people ask me where I’m from, I really wish that “citizen of the world” would be a valid answer, because to me that is truly the most accurate one. I’ve been molded by a wide variety of cultures during my upbringing, which have all played a crucial role in shaping the person that I am today. I associate and identify with each and every one of them in one-way or another.
I’m so grateful for the eye opening experiences that this world has given me, and I believe that traveling is truly one of the greatest educational tools you can experience in this life.